He came back and as he passed he tweaked Harlan’s ear.
“It’s been a hard day, boy! Come on, let’s all three go to bed.”
IN THE CENTRE OF THE BIG STATE WEB
Chairman Presson, going his way next morning, had to confess to himself that he did not have much to do with the workings of the Fort Canibas caucus. But it was worth while to see it. It revealed the character of the opposition throughout the State. And he did a notable job in the publicity line immediately. That was his opportunity of “rallying to the flag.” The Duke had got his blow in first; the chairman of the State Committee got his news in first—for the State machine controlled the principal newspapers.
First news, put right, wins. The caucus in Fort Canibas exposed the methods of “so-called reformers”—as the report of it was set forth in print. And that news was a tocsin for town committeemen who had been dozing.
Thelismer Thornton, House leader, party boss, knight of the old regime, and representative of all that the reformers had been inveighing against, still controlled his district. That fact was impressed upon all. And the more vociferous the resulting complaints of the opposition, the more apparent it became that it was no mere skirmish party that had been sent out against him; he had whipped the generals themselves. His methods were mentioned discreetly; his results were made known to all men.
The fact that it was his grandson who had been nominated was not emphasized as an item of general knowledge. That “Thornton had been nominated” was. It was the essential point.
It was accepted as a tip by the many who were waiting and wondering just what this reform movement would accomplish in actual results—and that means ability to own and distribute plums. It shifted the complexion of many caucuses, or rather fixed that complexion, without any one being the wiser; for the managers of districts had been waiting for tips without saying anything in regard to their uncertainty. That’s an essential in practical politics—being able to wait without letting any one know of the waiting. It gives a man his chance to cheer with the winner and declare himself an “original.” The convert is never half as precious in politics as an “original.” It is in heaven that the joy over the sinner who repenteth is comforting and extreme. In politics the first men on the band-wagon get the hand and what’s in it.
And yet, as the tide of caucuses swelled and reports of results flowed into State headquarters, Chairman Presson and his lieutenants found themselves unable to mark men with the old certitude of touch. There was a queer kind of slipperiness everywhere. It was evident that the Canibas result had stiffened backbones in many quarters, but more new men than usual were coming forward with nominations in their fists. Many of these men were not telling any one how they felt on the big questions that were agitating the State. Some announced themselves with the usual grandiloquent generalities. It is easy enough to say that one believes in reform and good citizenship, for one can construe that later to suit circumstances.